Cabo San Lucas Car Rental Scams

Preparation is the key to saving money on rental cars in Mexico.  When it comes to car rentals in Cabo San Lucas, your printer is your best friend.

I had booked a rental car on Expedia with Europcar and was prepared for the worst.  This preparation was based on reviews of car rental agencies in Cabo San Lucas on TripAdvisor.  Reviews consistently mentioned that travellers were ripped off when getting their car.  The reviews of Cabo San Lucas car rental scams centered around these themes:

  1. Car rental rates were jacked up when travelers who booked online arrived to pick up their vehicle.
  2. The rental agency wanted put a hefty hold on the credit card.
  3. Renters were duped into purchasing more insurance than they needed.

I was as prepared to avoid these car rental scams as best as possible.  Before booking my car rental, I read the terms and conditions of the rental agreement very closely.  If there were any terms I did not understand or that were too complex, I moved on to a different agency.  I finally settled on Europcar because I thought the terms were the friendliest and easiest to understand.

In preparation for my trip, I brought 3 documents with me.  It would prove worthwhile, as each of these documents came in handy.  First, my rental agreement with Expedia showing the type of car I was getting, the dates and times, and the price.  Second, I brought with me the detailed terms and conditions of the rental agreement which stated important terms such as the mandatory vs. optional insurance, credit card deposit requirements, and cost of extra driver (free in my case).  Finally, I brought a copy of a letter that I obtained from my credit card company stating that I was covered for Collision Damage Waiver, which otherwise would have cost me an extra $22 per day.

Rip Off Attempt #1:  Jacking Up the Price

I was prepared to be scammed when I went to the booth.  By the way, the wait at the car rental agency was prettty minimal, only taking about 15 minutes.  The total for the car rental, not including insurance, but after taxes was $50 more than what it was supposed to be.  When asked about this, I was told that this was because of the tax, which I am certain is a standard line they give.  I told her that my rate (printed reservation) also included the tax.  I asked for a calculator and showed her my calculations.  Finally, after some back and forth, she backed down from the jacked up price.

Rip Off Attempt #2:   Adding An Extra Day

I had planned to pick the car up and drop it off at the same time, 5:00 p.m.  The rental agency had my rental pick up at 4:00 pm and dropping off at 5:00 pm, forcing me into an extra day.  This was a blatant change on their part (I had proof), and therefore insisted on having the extra day removed.

Rip Off Attempt #3:  Extra Like Roadside Assistance Were Automatically Included

I had to look closely at this.  I asked the clerk why the extra $2 per day, and I was told that she didn’t know the word in English.  I looked it up on Google Translate, and found it was essentially roadside assistance.  I easily opted out of this but barely noticed it.

Rip Off Attempt #4:  $7000 Hold On Credit Card

This is actually a funny story.  I was told by Europcar Cabo San Lucas car rental agency that there was a mandatory $7000 USD hold on my credit card for declining a collision insurance.  I told her it was $5000 and showed her the paperwork.  She showed me her website which shows $7000.  I told her that I made an agreement for $5000, not $7000 and she’d have to honor that.  She disagreed.

The fine print from Expedia clearly showed $5000 for the class of car I was renting (a midsize car), and $7000 for a larger “standard” car.  She told me the 2 cars were the same thing and thus the deposit was $7000.  I walked out of the office, found a Europcar employee who was cleaning out a car and asked him the difference between a midsize and a standard.  He confirmed, a midsize (the kind I was renting) was indeed smaller than the “standard” which had a requirement of $7000.  She was caught in a lie and had to back down.  She called her manager and he agreed to let me rent it with only a $5000 deposit, but “just this once.”

Rip Off Attempt #5:  Empty Tank of Gas

When signing the paperwork, I agreed to return the car with a full tank of gas.  This is the standard throughout the world, whether in Cabo San Lucas or elsewhere.  You get a full tank and leave with a full tank.  When I got into my car, I actually noticed that I only had less than a 1/4 tank of gas.  I was able to point this out to them and they made the adjustments to the paperwork.  It was tricky to return the car with just the same amount of gas as I got it.  They came out ahead.

Car Rental Insurance

Believe it or not, there was no attempt to rip me off when it came to insurance (except the opt-out roadside assistance).  I had a print out from my credit card company stating that I was covered, so no hassles here.  However, the person in front of my got scammed by this:  not having the paperwork from their credit card stating they had coverage.

Overall Experience

It is very much true what you read about on TripAdvisor and other sites about renting a car in Mexico.  At least in my experience, car rentals in Cabo San Lucas are full of scams.  Had I not been aware and brought the proper documentation, I would have been over-charged by approximately $380.

Its unfortunate that Europcar lived up to its reputation and tried to get more money out of me than we had agreed to when we entered into our contract via their marketing partner, Expedia..  It’s very fortunate that I was prepared by having the printed documentation and being hyper aware of everything they were charging me for.

Besides the scams, the overall experience was decent.  I was met by a shuttle from the airport quickly and the wait to get helped at the rental office was not that bad.  The entire paperwork took about 30 minutes because I had to haggle with the clerk and double check everything.  A 12 day car rental cost me around $300 USD after taxes, insurance, and of course, the cost of the car rental.   If it had not been for the TripAdvisor warnings, I probably would have paid double.

The actual car, well that’s another story.  They say you get what you pay for, and for $25 per day, I have no complaints.